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Quietly, momentum has been building. There have been whispers of a catalyst, which I can neither affirm nor deny. “There is no money in poetry, but there is no poetry in money either. So it balances out.” We are overflowing no less because we record our utterances, and debatably more.
Alan Kaufman has been organizing the spoken word and music scene that has for 7 years now met every Thursday from 10-Midnite at the 16th St. BART station. He attends the corner regularly and this month will mark the fourth monthly American Street Showcase, which probably shouldn’t be monthly but, despite this, has a devoted turnout. Recently, Kaufman has dubbed the scene—which now, thanks in large part to the Quiet Lightning community, or to citizen journalism, or to social media, or to kermit the frog, has become substantially bigger than just the 16th Street crowd—he has dubbed them The New San Francisco Underground Poets, and this past Friday, Aug 13 10, Kaufman brought them out of Dostoevsky and into a 100 year old library, 3rd floor, prime real estate, to define themselves, perform, and sell their wares.
I should rightfully say our. Andrew Paul Nelson and Charlie Getter were responsible for organizing the performances, and I was asked to moderate the panel. I asked Gravity Golberg, of Instant City and Litquake fame, Getter and J. Brandon Loberg, who put together the 16th St Review, Mike Skott, who has recently founded Ink. Publishing and released Pam Benjamin‘s book and, tonight, M.G. Martin‘s, and Stephen Elliott, author and founder of The Rumpus. I would explain these decisions but I do so in the second video below.
I was awkward. Watching myself, I feel like a part of the underground. I mean, really, what am I doing up there? But at the same time, who else should have done it? The underground has emerged!
I thought the panel went very well, despite only having 20 minutes … and feel as though the six of us could have talked for hours. The performances were spectacular, and there were so many DIY zines, small presses, and comics there that I probably didn’t know much more than half of them. The Mechanics Institute, notorious for having an older, devoted crowd that attends every or nearly every program, were not only troopers—most of them sitting on the floor, corner style—but were also rapt and even enthused. Generally uptight about programming ending on time, the library allowed everyone to mingle and purchase books, discuss the old days and the future, and make new contacts. Not only that, but we were invited upstairs for complimentary wine and snacks. Not even just the panelists, either, but all of the performers.
It was a successful night by any measure, and one I won’t ever forget. I could tell it was successful because I felt good about it for the rest of the evening, talking with APN and Charles Kruger first in a taqueria, then over to Luna Park to meet up with Alia Volz and the Literary Death Match crowd (Jesus Angel Garcia, Matt Stewart, Chris Cole), and then to Phone Booth, where we met M.G. and Tess Patalano and D.W. Lichtenberg. In two very different parts of town our group had fissured for the evening and had scored two triumphs. I knew it was successful because I didn’t want to moderate that panel; I wanted to be there with M.G. and Alia and to see my friends read and judge—of all the LDMs I have sat through to record, thinking I can’t wait to go home and get some work done, I really wanted to be there on the 13th of 10. I really, really did. But I thought this panel was important, or could have been, and I knew it was successful because I didn’t regret it. I didn’t once think this is a mistake or what we are doing here is wrong.
Quite the contrary. Hope to see you tonight.
Jess + Andrew
J. Brandon Loberg
William Taylor Jr.
Shye Has Powers
The Secret Secretaries